My Summer Internship at MNA
By Aneesha Goodala
August 29, 2019
I have just completed my first summer internship at MN Associates, Inc. here in Fairfax, VA. MNA is a small, woman-owned research and evaluation firm established in 2004 by Kavita Mittapalli, Ph.D.
How it began?
I met Kavita at one of the Hindu temple events where we both volunteer over the weekends. We started talking about “my” future. Kavita mentioned that her company is considering opening a summer intern position. She asked if I might be interested.
Naturally, I said just yes – while making laddoos (an Indian sweet).
About me. Expectations from the Internship.
I am a sophomore at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. I am majoring in Public Policy and Statistics. Coming into the summer internship at MNA, I had no clue what to expect. I had no prior work experience and my knowledge of research and evaluation was minimal. However, what I did know was that this internship, regardless of what it entailed, would be a great learning experience.
I was not disappointed.
Reflecting back, the skills, values, and insights that I have gained during these two months are invaluable. My involvement spanned various ongoing evaluation projects at MNA, including working on the National Science Foundation-funded STEM education grants: Hinds Community College (Utica, MS) – R-GEMS + T and MAGNET Ohio (ITEST grants), the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE’s) AI in Education project, DC Health’s School Health Program Evaluation and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) project.
What did I do?
Whether I was conducting phone interviews or transcribing them, participating in focus group discussions off-site and taking copious notes during these sessions, organizing all the above into spreadsheets to help senior staff code and analyze later; editing a evaluation report, entering survey and reporting data into excel spreadsheets, or compiling case studies for a project, not only did I have the opportunity to immerse myself in an environment that depended on accuracy, punctuality, focus, and team collaboration, but I was also able to learn about the areas and agencies that I would not have been exposed to easily.
The work was hands-on and got intense sometimes as we all had work deadlines, client calls to do, and client data requests that seem to happen rather frequently. I learned a bit about consultancy too.
Senior staff at MNA were always available and willing to help on anything I would ask. I appreciate their mentorship, support, resources, time, and guidance.
They are fun bunch to hang out with too!
It was all about hands-on and team work. My takeaways.
Because of my work with MNA, I now have a much better understanding of the inner workings of school nurses and their responsibilities within the DC public and public charter schools; I also have greater insights as to how the implementation of AI into classrooms can be beneficial to students and teachers, and I am more aware of efforts being taken to streamline the process of entering the field of manufacturing for students in Ohio.
The team at MNA has taught me much.
Thanks to the endless supply of patience, wisdom, leadership, and the sheer breadth of knowledge provided by my “bosses” Kavita and Nina, I feel more confident than ever in my abilities and aspirations for the future. I am grateful to MNA and enjoyed learning the work they do!
I returned to UVA last week. I have taken with me my new found skills in conducting field-based evaluation work. I have a long way to go but this is a great beginning.
I look forward to learning R, statistics, and public policy and hopefully will return next summer to MNA again to do some more applied work. I would like to dabble in some analyses and report writing work.